[March 2019] Competition in the Digital Age: Is It Better to Be Small?

By David Norcross, Managing Director of Lexicon


Mass production, high-powered advertising campaigns, strong brand recognition – for the longest time, large companies seemed to have insurmountable advantages in the market, thanks to the advantages they enjoyed as a consequence of their size.

SMEs, by contrast, would need to utilize all of their ingenuity in order just to begin competing with the big players in their sector. For many smaller companies, finding a comfortable niche has long seemed to be a much more realistic business strategy than playing the dominant industry leaders at their own game.

But the rise of the digital era has led to radical changes across society, overturning some of our most entrenched assumptions about how an economy can work. The pendulum has now swung back in favor of fast, nimble, and flexible businesses, leaving many corporate giants unable to reorient themselves fast enough to meet the demands of a quickly changing society.

The New Playing Field

In the age of e-commerce, mass production has largely given way to customizable product lines. Social media, and in particular viral marketing, has enabled many smaller businesses to vastly outperform their larger counterparts by embracing charismatic online personas. Simple, low-budget marketing efforts now routinely reach larger audiences than bland, impersonal advertisements – even when the latter are backed by heavy funding.

These types of achievements are possible due to the power of creative Digital Marketing. As a catch-all term, digital marketing encapsulates everything from achieving top ranks on Google, to influencing opinion on Instagram; and from garnering positive reviews on Panthip, to generating sales through Facebook.

Digital PR can play a crucial role in enhancing the power of a digital marketing campaign. Digital PR turns its focus away from short-term ROI, serving instead to build brand awareness, buzz, backlinks, web traffic, or any other clearly-defined objective related to reputation-building. Rather than focusing on sales, Digital PR instead positions itself as the ideal strategy for companies looking to be seen as thought leaders in their industry.

Thought leadership means that when audiences think of a particular product or service, they immediately associate your company with expertise in that field. If you think of an electric car company, chances are you’re thinking of Tesla – even though since its inception, the company has never paid for a single advertisement. Such a triumphant Digital PR achievement can be worth far more over time than a campaign focused on pushing for immediate sales.

Bringing Together the Old and the New

Successful Digital PR takes familiar outreach concepts and re-imagines them for the digital era.

Press releases, for example, have long been a part of companies’ marketing playbook, taking advantage of publishers’ perpetual search for usable material that can quickly be turned around into quality content. The modern press release, however, has evolved – and not just to incorporate hyperlinks and SEO-friendly terms into the most quotable portions of the text. As the online world is now saturated with media organizations, partnerships can now be developed with organizations looking for new content to publish.

The fruits of such partnerships can take many forms. Buzzfeed-style ‘listicles’ generate huge traffic and are easy for a marketing department to produce. But Digital PR has the potential to go far beyond advertorials, and into the world of viral content. Heineken’s recent ‘Open Your Mind, Open Your World’ ad and Burger King’s anti-bullying PSA received invaluable free publicity from newspapers and magazines around the world covering the story, not to mention extra amplification from social media users who shared the content.

That latter phenomenon of social media sharing is particularly important, as potential consumers then see the content endorsed by somebody they know and trust, rather than a faceless corporation or a publication they may not be familiar with.

The New Keys to Victory

Not every effort is guaranteed to go viral, but by engaging a company’s target audience with compelling content, Digital PR offers the best opportunity for businesses to demonstrate brand personality in a way that people can relate to. The right product and pitch produce the potential to be picked up by publications, building awareness, credibility and goodwill among your current and future audience.

These strategies work well even without having the budget of a large company. There are even advantages in being small, such as having the ability to respond rapidly to changing trends in technology and society. Of course, large companies can also make concerted efforts to adapt to new approaches – and their long-term success may depend on doing exactly that.

In a world of personalized products and precisely targeted marketing content, businesses need to recognize that the value of their brand is no longer in its size or even its general name recognition – but in the ability to connect with its audience on a human level. Such connections mean making a real and lasting impression in a world full of digital distraction. People will then follow your brand willingly and share it with the people they care about – and sustained improvements in sales numbers will follow over time.

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David Norcross is part of the Australian Chamber of Commerce Thailand’s Communications Sub-Committee and is also Managing Director of Lexicon. Lexicon is a digital PR firm based in Bangkok, specializing in all forms of storytelling through digital marketing, video production, content writing and graphic design.

 

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